At each mention of his name, the crowd roared. On a Thursday night, 34,183 fans gathered at Truist Park to witness a moment 10 months in the making.

Finally, Ronald Acuña had returned.

This wasn’t batting practice or live batting practice or a simulated game or a rehab assignment. No, this was a real Major League Baseball game, in front of the home fans. And as he went out to right field for the start of the game, Acuña raised both arms as he faced the crowd.

“It was amazing,” Acuña said of that moment, through interpreter Franco García. “The energy was at an all-time level.”

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In the Braves’ 5-1 win over the Cubs, which sealed a series victory, Acuña went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts and two stolen bases. He impacted the game in all its phases in his first game with the club since tearing his ACL last July.

He collected his first hit of the season with a single in the seventh inning. He stole one base in the fifth and another in the seventh. In the fifth, he made a great defensive play to hold Jason Heyward to a single.

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Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna signs autographs for young fans on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna signs autographs for young fans on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Atlanta.    “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna signs autographs for young fans on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

And as he does, he brought his own energy to the ballpark from the moment he arrived in a yellow Trae Young Hawks jersey with yellow Nikes.

“I never saw him at the field today when I was doing my preparation and stuff like that, but you could just feel a little bit different energy,” starting pitcher Kyle Wright said. “He’s a superstar player and just getting a guy like that back in the locker room, in the lineup, it goes a long way.”

There were 292 days between July 10, 2021 (Acuña’s last game before Thursday) and Thursday. The Braves won a World Series in that span, but everyone understands the obvious: They are much better when Acuña is leading off and playing in right field.

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Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. steals second base during the fifth inning of the team's baseball game against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Atlanta. Acuna was playing for the first time since a season-ending knee injury last year. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. steals second base during the fifth inning of the team's baseball game against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Atlanta. Acuna was playing for the first time since a season-ending knee injury last year. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. steals second base during the fifth inning of the team's baseball game against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Atlanta. Acuna was playing for the first time since a season-ending knee injury last year. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

With Acuña back, the first half of the Braves’ lineup looked like this: Acuña, Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Marcell Ozuna and Ozzie Albies. There are seven Silver Slugger Awards and seven All-Star nods in that group.

“That starting pitcher sees the first four, five guys and knows they’ve got to navigate through that four times, don’t think they don’t think about that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Acuña also gave one example of the immediate boost he could provide the team’s outfield defense. Heyward hammered a ball off the right-field wall. Acuña played it perfectly and fired the ball back to the infield.

Heyward had made the turn toward second, but quickly halted and went back to first. He didn’t want to test Acuña.

“That was huge,” Wright said. “Just having a guy on first instead of second, that’s a big deal.”

Before the game, Acuña cited his speed as a part of his game that improved during his rehab. He felt that his work strengthening his legs after the injury would help in that area. Then he easily stole two bases for a Braves club that only had three stolen bases in the season’s first 19 games.

“Hopefully it’s just the beginning and hopefully it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and we keep improving on that,” he said.

Braves 5, Cubs 1

Acuña will not play on Friday as the Braves ease him back into the fold. Snitker said the outfielder will not play in day games following night games, or on the same days the team is traveling. He won’t be an everyday outfielder, Snitker said, until some point in July, though the Braves will be constantly evaluating him as they go.

To begin the season, the Braves held championship weekend at Truist Park to finish celebrating their World Series. Thursday felt like another day to celebrate: The Braves’ superstar is back.

“I was just extremely excited,” Acuña said. “I think the adrenaline level was at a maximum. Those first few at-bats, I couldn’t contain myself, it felt like. Obviously the later at-bats, I felt like I could contain myself and keep the emotion in check a little bit better.”

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Braves outfielders Travis Demeritte (left), Adam Duvall (second from left), and Ronald Acuna celebrate with mascot Blooper after the 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Braves outfielders Travis Demeritte (left), Adam Duvall (second from left), and Ronald Acuna celebrate with mascot Blooper after the 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves outfielders Travis Demeritte (left), Adam Duvall (second from left), and Ronald Acuna celebrate with mascot Blooper after the 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@